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Cold Water Shock-UK MCA guidance on how human body reacts to cold water shock

Discussion started by Anand Sailor 7 years ago

Did you know that ...

  • approximately 55% of the annual open water drowings in the UK happen within 3 metres of a safe refuge
  • about 42% happen within 2 metres
  • 2/3rds of those who die were regarded as good swimmers
  • an adverse reaction to falling into cold water prevents people from swimming 3 metres to save their live
There are four stages that a person will experience when falls into cold water and which are caused by the cooling of different areas of the body:
FIRST: The initial response, known as "cold shock" - cooling of the skin, which causes a sharp intake of breath or the "gasp reflex" which, if the airway is underwater, can lead to drowning and a sudden increase in the work required of the heart, leading to death from cardiac arrest or stroke in some cases
SECOND: Short term response - cooling of the muscles and nerves that lie close to the surface of the body, particularly  in the arms and legs, leading to a physical incapacitation and making it difficult to swim (swim failure) or use the hands. This weakness can lead to death by drowning especially if not wearing a lifejacket.
THIRD: Long term response- cooling of the organs in the core of the body. Unconsciousness follows and at tihs stage drowing may occur due unconsciousness, to wave splash if the victim is wearing a lifejacket without a  spray hoog
FOURTH: Post immersion response- during and after rescue- risk of a collapse in blood pressure and consequential fainting or cardiac problems of people who are very cold are asked to work hard to assist their own rescue or kept.
The UK Maritime & Coastquard Agency and the HM Coastguard have issued a poster giving guidance on how we can help ourselves in case of falling into cold water as follows:
The water will still be cold through May of June and you should enter the water cautiously,  to get used to it again. That way you can build up the resistance that you will have lost over the winter.
The lesson to learn here is to keep fit and don't forget your lifejacket is useless unless you wear it and it should have a spray hood, light and crotch strap or some other system to retain it on the body.

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